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Being Aware Of Fat Consumption

By: Ann Marie Coppen

Anne Marie Coppen

PhD, FNP, Nurse Practitioner

For a personal response to your health question, Ask Ann Marie at askannmarie@lindora.com. Selected questions will be featured in future columns.

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“Being aware of the fats you consume and switching from bad fats to good fats can have great health benefits!”

What fats should I be aware of when reading the nutrition label?  Which is the fat I should most concern myself with?

This is a very good question!

When reading the nutrition label we should be aware of the total fat, saturated fat and trans fat.  The two types of fat that we want to avoid are trans fat and saturated fat.

The most damaging fat is called trans fat.  The trans fat wreaks the most havoc in the arteries, raising the risk of heart disease.  Being that this fat increases cardiac risk, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required trans fat to be listed on food labels since 2006.  Prior to 2006 it was not on the nutrition label.

How does it increase cardiac risk? Trans fat increases the bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowers the good cholesterol (HDL) which equals a very bad combination!

It is recommended you try to avoid trans fat altogether.  According to the American Heart Association your trans fat consumption should be less than 1% of your daily calories.  If you are consuming 2000 calories per day, you should not consume more than 2 grams of trans fat. The lesser amount of trans fat you consume, the less risk for cardiovascular disease.

Please be careful that many products that read 0 trans fat do not necessarily mean there is 0 trans fat.  The FDA allows manufacturers to label 0 trans fat with up to .5 grams of trans fat per serving.

Foods that contain trans fat include:

  • Baked goods/desserts/cookies
  • Stick butter and margarine
  • High fat dairy products
  • Meats
  • Some cereals
  • Fast foods: foods that are deep fried, French fries, chicken even some grilled sandwiches
  • Frozen foods
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Dips and toppings

So please try to avoid these foods and carefully read the nutrition label!

Saturated fats are also harmful and should therefore also be limited.  They increase your total cholesterol and your bad cholesterol.

The main sources of saturated fats include:

  • Pastries
  • Cakes
  • Coconut oil
  • Meats
  • Cheeses
  • Pizza
  • Hot dogs
  • Bacon
  • Lard
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Whole milk

Hint: Trans fat and saturated fat are usually solid at room temperature!

Are their any fats that are good?

Our bodies need fat for daily function, nerve transmission and energy sources. There are two fats with complex names that do our body a lot of good.  These are Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats have been found to improve blood cholesterol levels and lower risk for heart disease and stroke.  Good sources of monounsaturated fats are:

  • Olive oil
  • Flax seed
  • Nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios)
  • Avocado

Polyunsaturated fats have also been found to improve blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk for heart disease. One type of polyunsaturated fat is Omega-3s.

Good sources of polyunsaturated fats are:

  • Cold water fish (such as salmon and trout)
  • Fish oil
  • Sunflower, corn and soy oils
  • Sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds (offer both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats)
Need help making sense of a nutrition label?

Watch my YouTube ‘Ask the Expert’ nutrition label tutorial at the Women In Trucking booth during the 2011 Great American Truck Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5S-mNB2awA or search: Women In Trucking Ask The Expert Ann Marie Coppen

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